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Copyrighted by 
Gustave Stickley 

A Revival 


Old Arts and Crafts 

applied to Wood and Leather. 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

Lyrasis Members and Sloan Foundation 

"Beauty does not 
imply elaboration or ornament. On the 
contrary, simplicity and character and 
the dignity which comes of them, 
are demanded in the interests alike of 
practicality and of art.' 


Our object is to 
substitute the luxury of taste for the 
luxury of costliness. 

&m TV12J7 

" Art, speaking broadly, 
may be defined as a creative operation of the 
intelligence ; the making of something either 
with a view to utility or pleasure." This 
definition is given in one of the many elemen- 
tary treatises of the day, which are designed 
to popularize knowledge. Accepting the defin- 
ition and advancing a step farther, we may 
claim that artistic creations often attain a 
double end. They are useful and, at the 
same time, they afford keen sensuous pleasure. 
They minister to our physical needs and they 
deal with questions of harmony of line and 

Carlyle, in his " Sartor 
Resartus," makes the statement that " Orna- 
ment is the first spiritual need of the barbarous 
man," And, indeed, we find the savage dec- 
orating with great care and no little skill his 
few household goods, his weapons and his 
clothing. If now this savage belongs to one 
of the superior races, he manifests his embry- 
onic capabilities in the relations between the 
constructive and the decorative features of the 
object which he creates; in the sweep of his 
lines ; in his use of dyes and stains. Thus 
we find the most ancient sun-dried pottery of 
the Greeks to be modeled upon the subtlest 
curves. We find the early inhabitants of 
Central and Northern Europe showing in their 
ornament the germs which slowly developed 
into the splendid art of the Middle Ages. 

If it is so proven that 
the intellectual capacity of the races, even in 
semi-civilization, is clearly discernible in their 
ornament, it is no less true that the character 
of each age, or period, is expressed in the 
objects of use and luxury then created. 

A cogent example of 
this fact lies in the productions of the medi- 

evai crafts. With these objects before our 
eyes, we realize the meaning of an art devek 
oped by the people, for the people, as a recip- 
rocal joy for the maker and the user. 

And here it would be 
possible to go a step farther and declare that 
men can not be civilized and bound together 
in brotherhood, unless they are given a share 
in art, which is no mere accident, but rather 
an essential and a positive necessity of life. 

If we advance still an- 
other step, we can state with emphasis that 
one office of art is to give people pleasure in 
the things that they must perforce use / that 
a second office is to give people pleasure in the 
things that they must perforce make. 

What has been named 
the Century ot Commerce has now given place 
to what, in the opinion of hopeful prophets, 
will be the Century of Education. And those 
now in the forceful and productive period of 
life should seek out their duty, and having 
found it, should take up its burden with 
steadfast purpose. First of all, it should be 
recognized that, as has been well said by a 
great modern artist-artisan, luxury is the foe 
of art. This is the first and most stable prin- 
ciple among those which should be taught to 
the coming generation. And the second, in 
the form of a commandment from the same 
source of wisdom, is like unto it : 

" Have nothing in your 
houses that you do not know to be useful, or 
believe to be ornamental." 

In common with all 
other governing principles, these just named 
are to be accepted in spirit, rather than in 
letter. Luxury is a relative term. The su- 
perfluity of one man is the necessity of his 
neighbor. The person whose relations are 
few and whose life is restricted, does not re- 
quire the complex environment of one whom 

political, social, or financial standing places 
within the constant view of the world at 
large. Again, luxury and richness are not 
synonyms. Luxury is the tempter of the 
idle. Richness in an object created by the 
artist, or art-artisan, is oftenest the product of 
the perfect union and co-operation of the brain, 
the hand, and the pleasure of the creator ; as 
we may find by examining the household 
furniture and utensils handed down to us from 
the Middle Ages. In these, whether destined 
for the king, or the yeoman, we see the same 
honesty of material, the same thoroughness of 
construction, the same skill in decoration, the 
same delicacy, care and inventive quality. 
Therefore, we view with equal delight the 
king's throne, the chorister's stall, the yeo- 
man's chimney-seat, and the peasant's bed, or 
marriage-chest. This is because they are all 
products of an art developed by the people, 
for the people, as a reciprocal joy for the 
maker and the user. 

In order, then, to bring 
on an age of artistic activity, of widely-dif- 
fused artistic knowledge, which shall be sim- 
ilar in character to the Middle Ages, the 
maker and user must understand and value 
each other. The maker must bend his ener- 
gies to produce objects uniting in themselves 
the qualities of utility, of adaptability to place, 
of comfort, and of artistic effect. The user 
must choose with discretion the objects which 
shall create his home; carefully providing 
that they express his station in life and his 
own individuality ; furthermore, that they re- 
spond to his every-day needs. 

Let us imagine a mem- 
ber of our great middle class, an individual 
neither hampered by poverty, nor oppressed 
by riches, choosing for himself an environ- 
ment reminiscent of the French Court of the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He 

desires magnificence at all hazards. He pur- 
chases it at the expense of comfort, utility, and 
good taste. He forgets that the "periwig, 
powder and patch epoch " has passed away. 
He can not animate the picture whose back- 
ground he has prepared with so much pains. 
Neither he, his wife, nor his children spend 
lives of idleness. They do not wear gowns 
and coats harmonizing with the delicate satins 
and brocades of his chairs and sofas ; nor is 
their intercourse with their friends and ac- 
quaintances of that formal order which is 
shadowed forth in the stately minuet. All 
things have become new: the country, the 
demands of the century, society, domestic 
architecture and domestic economy. It is 
not too much to say that " fine and French " 
objects of household equipment, or adornment, 
should be relegated to museums and the stage, 
where they pass into the category of historic 
art ; that for the uses of daily life they are un- 
practical, except in the town-palaces, the villas 
and the chateaux of our commercial and in- 
dustrial millionaires, where all conditions tend 
to cast the pall of oblivion over the time 
"when Adam delved and Eve span." 

Therefore, the French 
styles, splendid and exquisite though they be, 
are practically ruled out by the dictates of 
both judgment and taste from the environ- 
ment of the middle class individual. 

Now if it be true, as it 
has been asserted, that no designer, however 
original he may be, can sit down to-day and 
draw the form of an ordinary piece of furni- 
ture, or vessel, or the ornament of a cloth, 
that will be other than a development, or a 
degradation of forms used hundreds of years 
ago, where shall the middle class individual 
seek the objects that shall best express his 
station in life and his own individuality, and 
best respond to his daily needs? The an- 





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swer comes quickly. He must seek them 
among his social and political forbears; 
among the belongings of the burghers and 
the yeomen who prepared the way for the 
democracy of modern times. In the extant 
examples of the household art of mediaeval 
Germany and the Tyrol, of France and 
Flanders, of the England of the Puritan, he 
will find the qualities which are adapted to 
his uses. Good design, sound construction, 
sobriety, and subserviency of ornament. He 
has but to create the demand for objects pos- 
sessing these qualities; since designers and 
makers well-instructed in their art and craft, 
stand ready to produce a new household art 
which shall justify its name, 

A question which rises 
just here, regards the number and use of the 
fittings necessary to the daily life of the middle 
class individual with whom we are so much 
concerned. First of all, we will consider 
the necessities of his living-room. They 
have been enumerated by the poetnartisan 
whom we have several times before quoted, 
and whose ennobling influence in household 
furnishings and decorations is acknowledged 
in both hemispheres. His list is a short one, 
for he inveighs against the crowding of the 
space necessary to convenience, health and 
beauty. First and most important is the book- 
case ; next, a table, firm and steady, adapted 
to writing, or working purposes ; then, several 
chairs which shall be easily movable ; and a 
comfortable couch, bench, seat, or settle, as it 
may be variously called ; lastly, a desk, or 
cupboard provided with drawers; and a 
plant, or flower stand, especially if the room 
be located in a town-house, m concluding, 
the authority makes a comment which should 
be considered by those who wish to live 
without friction, and earnestly to pursue their 
profession, or calling. The comment is this : 





that we can add very little to these necessities, 
without troubling ourselves and hindering our 
work/ our thought, and our rest. It may 
also be added that as richness does not entail 
luxury, — that foe of art and fore-runner of 
degeneracy, — so simplicity does not necessi- 
tate cheapness, and that these objects should 
include none that have degraded a man to 
make, or to sell. 

To find that this sim- 
plicity may be costly, without losing anything 
of its chastene3s, we have but to recall the 
furnishings of certain rooms in the Tiffany 
house, 72nd Street, New York, which have 
become widely known through recent illus- 
trations in American art periodicals. 

To find the same char- 
acteristics of beauty, elegance and effective- 
ness, we need only to reconstruct from extant 
objects the Tyrolese peasant interiors of the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; always 
bearing in mind that these objects were the 
possessions of sons of the soil ; that they were 
created from materials which lay ready to the 
hands of the craftsmen, who were themselves 
the every-day laborers of their own hamlets. 
And in these objects, as well as in the peasant 
household fittings of other European countries, 
as also in the American colonial furniture 
that belonged to poor people, we see every- 
where the excellence of the model, together 
with perfect honesty of material and solidity 
of construction ; from which we argue once 
more that sincere art must be developed by 
the people, for the people, as a reciprocal joy 
for the maker and the user. 

If we pass now from the 
consideration of the living-room to that of the 
dining-room, we shall find to be applicable 
the same principles of fitting and decoration. 
Here again, no article should be admitted that 
literally does not earn its living : that is, ren- 




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der some actual service to the frequenters of 
the room. Here especially, the tendency to 
crowd and multiply the furnishings should be 
avoided, as there is no surer means of destroy- 
ing the decorative value of the separate pieces, 
and of defeating their purpose as useful arti- 
cles. Free space is in itself an ally of the 
decorator, and, in the dining-room, it becomes 
a first essential ; both for the comfort of the 
guests and the convenience of the servants, 
who, if crowded among buffets, china-cabinets, 
chairs and tables, require the dexterity of a 
gypsy in the egg-dance to avoid breakage and 
disaster. Another provision of equal impor- 
tance is that the size of the room and of its 
furnishings should be adjusted to each other, 
as apparent space may be rapidly diminished 
by the introduction of pieces too large and too 
massive. It is easy for the rich man to fur- 
nish his dining-room in baronial splendor; 
but it is possible for the man of the middle 
class to offer hospitality to his friends amid 
surroundings equally tasteful, although simple 
and comparatively inexpensive. This he may 
do by avoiding the eruptive carving, the 
applied ornament, the unrefined moldings 
which have hitherto characterized much of 
the furniture offered as "stylish pieces" in 
the shops. 

It is unnecessary further 
to accentuate the principle already suggested, 
but in passing now to consider the bed-room, 
a new essential presents itself. In this class 
of rooms, sanitation is the first law; upon 
which follow respect for space, regard for 
utility and comfort, and the quest for that 
repose which results from suavity of line and 
harmony of color. It has been a too frequent 
habit to eke out the furnishings of the bed- 
room with pieces discarded from the more 
public portions of the house, and thus to com- 
pose an ill-assorted, motley assemblage sug- 


gestive of a Sailor's Snug Harbor, or an Hotel 
des Invalides : a review anything but cheering 
to one awakening from sleep, or confined by 

The furnisher of the per- 
fect bed-room respects the advice to Phaeton, 
when he assumed control of the Chariot of 
the Sun : " Thou shalt go safest in the middle 
course." He avoids anything suggestive of 
bareness and coldness. He gives to every 
thing the air of being fitted to its place and of 
intending permanently to hold that place. 
And when his task is finished, the room occu- 
pies a position midway between the sleeping- 
room of the antique world and that meeting- 
place of the products of many ages and 
countries which the modern so-called bed- 
room often becomes under the hand of the 
decorator. The Greeks and Romans literally 
took up their beds and walked, from a closet 
on the north side of their dwellings to another 
closet on the south side, whenever the winds 
from the mountains warned them of the 
approach of winter. From these closets they 
eliminated all superfluous and many (in our 
opinion) necessary articles. We may imagine 
that the Greeks admitted a press for plaiting 
their gowns and mantles, and a few vases 
which served them for bureaux, chests of 
drawers, and boxes ; but neither they nor the 
Romans had the faintest conception of either 
comfort or home-life. 

In sharp contrast to this 
poverty of furnishings, stands out the luxury 
of a now frequent type of bed-room which, 
when we cross its threshold, suggests the 
quaint expression : "A superfluity of naughti- 
ness." And such indeed it is, with its confu- 
sion of objects of ill-defined use, which must 
require the entire time of one person to classify 
and regulate; with its space twisted into a 
labyrinth which, by day, has its perils in the 

7focKE.K n*z6o 

form of threatening bric-a-brac, and through, 
which, by night, Ariadne must perforce guide 

No, the perfect bed-room 
leans towards neither of these distressing ex- 
tremes. It contains a sufficiency of good 
furnishings which charm by their form and 
color; which offer hospitality and comfort, 
and which, in so doing, are altogether unob- 

We have now consid- 
ered the component parts of the dwelling of 
our day. To add to these is simple multipli- 
cation, and no new development ; since these 
rooms and their dependencies provide for all 
real needs. 

To produce, then, a 
home whose appointments render it a fitting 
scene for the work, pleasure, rest and refresh- 
ment suited to the station and tastes of those 
who are to inhabit it, is a task that brings its 
own reward in the comfort and joy that it 
provides for both the habitual occupants and 
the occasional visitors. We can not over- 
estimate the value of symmetry in the objects 
that daily surround us, or the value of good 
color in the walls, curtains and cushions upon 
which our eyes necessarily rest, as we think 
out the problems of existence. For fine color 
comes to us like food and like joyful news. 
It is invigorating. 

Our object in presenting 
these considerations is to lend aid to the pro- 
nounced art-movement of the present day ; to 
declare ourselves ready to work for the im- 
provement of public taste, as sincerely as did 
those English art-artisans of the last quarter 
century, who removed the ugly and the un- 
sightly from middle-class English homes, in 
order to substitute therefor a new world of 
form, and a new rainbow of color, bearing the 



' 91^ *^£SBRSS 

promise that the old order of things hostile to 
beauty should never again return. 

In the designing and 
making of objects for daily use, like necessary 
articles of furniture, opportunities for mechan- 
ical and artistic fraud occur, of which the 
unscrupulous designer and craftsman will 
take advantage. The one who acquires the 
object, being of another calling, or profession, 
is often incompetent to pronounce upon the 
excellence of the model employed, and the 
solidity of construction attained. He trusts 
and is deceived. He is forced often to replace 
his ugly, out-worn chairs and seats and 
tables, and he thus becomes the possessor of 
an incongruous assemblage of pieces whose 
quarrels with their neighbors never cease, — 
quarrels which, although mute, are not, for 
that reason, less distressing to the on-looker. 

To prevent such cases 
as these, within the radius of our possibilities, 
we have pledged ourselves never to produce 
anything that shall degrade a man to make, 
or to sell. We have set before ourselves the 
ideals of honesty of material, solidity of con- 
struction, utility, adaptability to place, and 
aesthetic effect. And it is by our failure, or 
our success in attaining these ideals that we 
demand to be judged. 

Our especial points of 
solicitude can be briefly summed up : 

First, the choice and 
treatment of the material employed ; 

Second, the care used in 
construction, whether treated from the point 
of view of use, or of beauty. 

Our materials are se- 
lected by experts and are subjected to pro- 
cesses which render them proof against the 
most trying conditions of climate and of house- 
temperature. In the treatment of woods, it is 
our purpose to retain, as far as possible, the 


Oimimo 7XPt,e 
N* 416. 

natural appearance of the substance ; intensi- 
fying the look of age, and staining it in tints 
that long exposure and "•weathering" might 
have imparted to it; afterward giving it a 
soft, dull finish which unifies what otherwise 
were a too "spotty" surface. As an instance 
of such treatment, we may mention our 
specimens of oak, which might well pass for 
the unaided work of nature and time. This 
wood, when finished in our workshop, is 
characterized by a pleasing gray-brown effect, 
which in some lights, gives out fine notes of 
green. It is admirably adapted for use with 
the soft colors of Oriental rugs and hangings. 

Our experiments with 
ash and hazel have proven no less successful, 
and we also use several more accentuated 
stains, in gray and green effects, which are 
distinguished by rare color properties and by 
peculiar lustre. 

As an adjunct to the 
woods so treated, leather is felt in our work- 
shop, to be of a high artistic value. This 
material, therefore, is prepared with extreme 
care for its proper office. As is well known, 
the Spaniards in the Middle Ages, and at the 
period of the Renaissance, were the most 
skilful dressers of hides and skins for decora- 
tive purposes, and, so far as is practicable, we 
follow their methods of preparation. Here 
again, time acts as the ally of the "Old Mas- 
ters" ; since the beautiful color properties of 
the "antiques," which we are able successfully 
to reproduce, could not have been possessed 
even by the Spanish leathers in their youthful 
prime. The material having been made to 
respond to certain desired color-notes, is 
employed by us with the above-described 
woods and to an extent that is quite peculiar 
to our workshop. 

Among other aids to 
our artistic effects in material, we must desig- 

S^fiurma TAB-' 5 - "'417 

nate the now famous " Grueby Tiles/' in rich 
Veronese greens and blues and vivid orange, 
which we employ to make spots of positive, 
intense color upon our negative backgrounds ; 
also, with the more practical purpose of afford- 
ing cleanly and sanitary surfaces for the tops 
of wash-stands, plant-stands, and tabourets. 

Still another material 
subject to our experiments, is the rush, or 
reed, which although commonly and inartis- 
tically used, is capable of becoming a signifi- 
cant decorative factor; as we may find by 
reference to the work of savage tribes, in 
their utensils and ornament. 

Our second point of 
solicitude : that is, the care used in the con- 
struction of our furniture, whether it be 
treated from the utilitarian, or the aesthetic 
side, is of still greater interest than the first to 
those not belonging to the craft. We com- 
mand the attention of buyers of household 
fittings, because they are assured of obtaining 
from us articles which are strongly made 
from thoroughly seasoned material, and which 
are easily kept clean, smooth, bright, and in 
good repair. We also attract lovers and 
students of art by our distinctive designs, and 
our deviations from the established treatment 
of form. The attainment of such designs is 
the object of our strenuous and constant effort, 
and our success as artists and craftsmen is 
largely due to happy, original attempts in this 

Our first and leading 
purpose in building a cabinet, case, bed, or 
chair, is that the design shall represent, and 
not confuse the structural idea ; in a word, 
that our art shall not conceal our article ; all 
ornamentation being kept as simple as possible, 
so that the beauty of the piece may lie in its 
pleasing form, and in the color and finish of 
the wood. Thus, by the elimination of points 

intended for decoration, which do not decorate, 
which appear to be part of the construction 
and yet have no part in it, we arrive at the 
desired end : that is, the perfect correspond- 
ence of the piece to its primitive use and 

At the same time, we do 
not make our constructive features unduly 
prominent ; for we never lose the opportunity 
to incorporate in our work lines of beauty, 
which will be recognized in the long, refined, 
graceful curves; in the softening of wedge- 
effects ; in the forms of the mullions entering 
into the doors of cases and cabinets , in the 
refinement of moldings and angles, so treated 
as to create an agreeable play of lights and 
shadows; in the restrained, although never 
tame, ornamentation. 

Considered purely from 
the artistic point of view, our models offer an 
interesting study in the evolution of form. 
We have, in accordance with what we feel 
to be the demand of the future, abandoned the 
historic styles, which weremovements justified 
and natural in their time, but which corres- 
pond to conditions now, to some degree, non- 

Occasionally, in some 
pieces of our work, the student will catch a 
faint, distant echo of a world-famous orna- 
ment, but he will be a Darwin of design who 
can trace the intervening links between the 
primitive form and our own presentation of 
its evolutionized descendant. Such is our use 
of the lotus, the convolvulus, and other beau- 
tiful plant-forms, which, to speak scientifically, 
we "simplify," and again reconstruct and 
develop by the process of "natural selection" ; 
attaining thereby a design which does not 
weary, or annoy, by its meaningless adher- 
ence to history and precedent, and which 
charms by the simplicity of its contours, 

wherein there is nothing to trace out, save 
lines of extreme subtlety, like those which 
attract and allure us in the drawing of 
Leonardo da Vinci. 

Now and again, also, in 
our models, there may be found certain resem- 
blances to the household fittings of the peasant, 
or the Puritan. But such resemblances result 
from original attempts in the direction of sound 
construction, rather than from designed and 
express imitation. Indeed, we may say in 
concluding the explanation of our designs, 
that our object is to represent the primitive 
idea of any given article, but, at the same time, 
to express that idea with the maximum skill 
IP^P of design and of craftsmanship. 

One other appealing 
characteristic of our productions lies in their 
provision for convenience and comfort. Our 
cabinets, cases, and bureaux present a single 
line of frontage ; thus assuring all the space 
announced by the dimensions of the base ; our 
library and bed-room chairs are made with 
sloping backs, designed for use with movable 
pillows which are held in place by means of 
cross-racks ; they are also given broad arms, 
through which the front posts are often mor- 
tised. Furthermore, certain models are some- 
times employed, which, by their roominess 
and peculiar construction, partake of the 
nature of bed, table and chair ; providing an 
excellent resting place, and, at the same time, 
offering conveniences for holding the books, 
or the work of the occupant. 

In thus providing com- 
fort or convenience, assuring utility, and 
securing thorough construction, harmony of 
line and refinement of color, in every object 
that leaves our workshop, we feel that we 
fulfil our duty as artists and craftsmen ; that 
we are working for a definite and : high pur- 
pose : that is, the improvement of the public 

taste ; that we are putting forth our personal 
efforts to realize the meaning of an art devel- 
oped by the people, for the people, as a recip- 
rocal joy for the maker and the user. 

"t?oc/<ei^ n«26/6" 

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